The building’s entry doors are made of wood from Old Ironsides. The interior boasts vaulted ceilings, heart-of-pine floors, and a flying staircase. More importantly, this building has a rich history, serving as the location where the famous slave ship the Amistad docked in 1839.
This historical structure is now the home of the New London Maritime Museum, located in New London, Conn.
While serving as a symbol of another time, the museum must also provide an environment that will both help preserve its priceless treasures and keep visitors comfortable.
The New London Maritime Museum is just one example of a niche market for contractors. Installing a heating and cooling system for older and historical buildings can present an array of challenges, but many contractors assert that ductless mini-splits can provide efficient heating and cooling with a minimum of frustration.
Keeping History Intact
Duncklee Inc. Heating and Cooling (Stonington, Conn.) was enlisted by the museum to provide an adequate heating and cooling solution. Upon inspection, the contractor found exterior walls of solid granite that were 28 inches thick, and floors of brick and concrete that ranged from 6 inches to 16 inches in thickness. The building also has two basements because the street was elevated in the 19th century.
According to Mike Smith, marketing manager for Mitsubishi Electric HVAC Advanced Products Division, this is a common problem with historical homes.
“Installing a traditional ducted system for the ground floor might mean adding a large packaged system with ductwork running under the house,” he said. “The second floor might require a second system installed in the attic, if available, and ductwork run above a dropped ceiling.”
He said that this option creates a difficult and costly installation that could disrupt the integrity of a building’s architecture.
“With split ductless systems, you can mount the indoor unit above a doorway or window, out of plain view, while preserving the views from the inside and out,” said Smith.
To solve the museum’s comfort needs, Duncklee installed a ductless system for the first floor and a ducted system for the second floor offices, library, and meeting hall. Two Mr. Slim MSH09TW wall-mounted indoor units with an MXZ30TN inverter outdoor model were installed, along with two MF15EN floor-mounted models with MUF15EN outdoor units. The company was able to run the piping to the outdoor units by going down through the basement and out the basement walls. From the basement walls, the piping was connected to the outdoor units, which were hidden in a back alley.
Ease Of Installation
A ductless system not only keeps a building’s original architecture intact, according to Smith, it makes a difficult and challenging installation into something much easier.
“Installations are performed by an experienced installer in as little as four hours when there is an existing, non-masonry, exterior wall and the line and electrical runs are less than 20 feet,” he said. “Many times, two Mr. Slim systems can be installed in one day, assuming that the projects are geographically close.”
As proof of that fact, he pointed to another historical application that took place in Flint, Mich.
The National Center for Community Education (NCCE) is headquartered in a 10,000-square-foot mansion, which was built in 1927 by clothing magnate Joseph Crawford.
The NCCE has grown since it was established in 1967, and eventually took ownership of the J. Edington Burroughs home, located next door to the organization headquarters. By obtaining the home, NCCE was able to expand its campus two years ago. And while the NCCE staff continued to change and grow, so did the needs of the organization’s buildings. The old homes needed a practical heating and cooling system to accommodate the staff. But there were several things to consider when installing a system, namely budget constraints and structural challenges.
Chris Russell from F.C. Moran Company Inc., a Mitsubishi Diamond Dealer, did the specs for the NCCE job. “Most of my contractors tell me that installing a Mr. Slim is much easier, less time-consuming than they expected, even if they have never installed one,” he said. “They like the fact that the system is not complicated.”
Russell said that since the system is so uncomplicated, it is a time saver for contractors.
Since NCCE was concerned about cost and the fact that a central air system could take away from the integrity of the historic homes, the organization decided to go with ductless systems. Dee Cramer Heating and Cooling (Holly, Mich.) performed the actual installation.
With the exception of the bathrooms, each room in each home was equipped with a Mr. Slim unit. Five MSH09EW and five MSH12EN wall-mounted heat pump systems were put in place, as well as one MXZ30TN wall-mounted inverter multi heat pump system in both houses.
The technology removed the obstacle of installing ductwork. It required little piping and wiring to connect indoor and outdoor units.
NCCE was concerned that the new systems would be obtrusive. According to Rich Cramer, vice president of Dee Cramer Heating and Cooling, this problem was solved by placing indoor units on a wall near the ceiling. Although the units are still visible, they are much smaller than conventional units.
“It’s not just historic installations that benefit from Mr. Slim advanced technology,” said Russell. “Consider the huge remodeling industry today. With older walls and ceilings unavailable, it is my experience that ductless systems are the only option available. In my opinion, ductless systems are no longer a niche product; they are a primary source for cooling and heating needs.”
More Than A Niche?
On top of Gull Hill in Provincetown, Mass., you’ll find the Land’s End Inn, built in 1904 and overlooking the Cape Cod Bay. The inn was purchased by Michael MacIntyre and Robert Anderson in 2002. The new owners wanted to preserve the inn’s historic look, but also wanted the modern convenience of air conditioning.
John S. Souza of Souza Heating and Cooling Inc. (Orleans, Mass.) was called in to find a solution. According to Souza, when he pulled up to the inn in his car, he could tell right away that ductless systems would be the answer.
“The original design of an old structure – like the Land’s End Inn – often precludes using a ducted system,” said Souza. “In this application, a ducted system was out of the question.”
He also said that although the owners were not familiar with ductless systems, they trusted Souza’s expertise. “I explained why I could not install ducts in their century-old structure,” he said. “I took them to see other Mr. Slim installations to show how they worked. They became convinced.”
In just one week before the 2003 summer season, Souza and his company installed six tri-zone MXZ30TN systems, four MSH15TN units, and a single MSH09TW unit.
“The Land’s End Inn installation took one-third the time that a ducted system would have taken,” said Souza.
“We couldn’t be happier with this decision,” said MacIntyre. “Having Mr. Slim units in all of our guest rooms greatly improved our business this past summer. All our guests commented on how comfortable and calming the rooms are now.”
Souza believes that while ductless systems are perfect for historical applications, the products have transcended their niche status.
“Ductless is no longer a niche market,” he said. “It has earned its way into becoming a primary source. Even if a conventional system is possible, we will always recommend ductless first.”